Story by Jim Horvath
Photos by Larry Bennet
The July 4 holiday had come and gone. Just one short month remained until the start of official practices for Ohio high school football teams.
On a quiet summer morning at Memorial Stadium, a familiar face among those who have participated in or followed Bay High athletics reflected on what was in store for the Rockets football team.
Ron Rutt was a former wide receiver and cornerback under former head coach Tom Kaiser in the Rockets' Southwestern Conference days. He has also been the boys head track coach for five seasons.
As summer's midpoint approached, he was already well into his first season as the football program's head coach.
"Bay is the only place I would really want to be head coach in a program," said Rutt, who graduated from Bay in 20000 and earned his degree in Technology Education at Kent State University.
"Maybe I shouldn't say the only place, but it's definitely my dream job," he said with a grin. "Let's just say there's nowhere else I'd rather be the head football coach than here at Bay. It's a cool situation."
It was a pretty good situation at Bay during Rutt's playing days. The Rockets went 6-4 during his junior and senior years, and he was a team captain during his senior season. After graduating from Kent State, he went on to earn his Master's degree in School Administration from Bowling Green State University.
He teaches at the high school, and has been an assistant football coach under the school's previous three head coaches: Gary Sherwood, Mike Peregord and Ryan Gorius.
"The last four head coaches here at Bay, I've either played or coached for," Rutt said. "From each of those coaches, I've seen things that I think would really work well here. There are some things that didn't work well here too.
"I feel this gives me the opportunity to piece some of those things together so we can do the best we can here at Bay," he said.
It's been a tough few seasons at Bay, with last year's team going 1-9. There were several situations where the Rockets would be in the game, only to lose it in the final minutes. Rutt is hopeful he and his staff can reverse that trend.
"I think if you've watched us over the past couple of years, we've been very close in a lot of games," Rutt said.
"We've had some success, even though our record hasn't been very good. I think that's because of a lot of little things. It's the execution of assignments on the field. Missed assignments can cause a lot of major mistakes in a football game.
"I think by teaching on the practice field and simplifying the things we're doing, we can eliminate some of those errors and become a much more sound football team," he said.
Before official practices even began, Rutt said he felt as though the players were responding to the program being implemented by himself and his coaching staff.
"The other thing, as someone who's been on the staff and around the program, we want the kids to believe it's going to be different," he said.
"We have a very similar staff to what we had last year, so our players know us. I think through the first coupled of practices we've had, there's been quite a bit of excitement among the kids about what we're doing. I think they can see a change and see a difference in the way we're going about things.
"Over the summer workouts, we've averaged around 45 kids in the weight room and for conditioning every day we were up here. I'm very happy with those numbers between summer league things and vacations. That was a good sign early on," he said.
Rutt said his summer program had gone smoothly, although his days had been pretty full for the most part.
"Have there been any surprises? Not really," Rutt said.
"Having been around, I feel I know the administration here," he said. "I know our players and the rest of the student body. I've been pleasantly surprised with the energy of the kids working out during the summer and how they're prepared themselves.
"At this point during the off-season phase, the big thing for me is the behind the scene things that you have to do. I've already experienced some of that in five years as the head boys track coach.
"I remember one time this summer, we had practices in the morning, then did some seven-on-seven work in the evening. In between those two sessions, I was up here at the school the entire time. I was doing things on the computer, emailing, typing things up, making phone calls and organizing equipment, things like that.
"I didn't even go home. When the evening session started, it was almost like 'wow, what do I do now?' It makes for a long day. All that behind the scenes stuff, you know it's there, but you don't always realize how much of it there is to get done. But I still enjoy doing it," he said.
Any coach needs a strong group of leaders to get through the various ups and downs of a season. Rutt said he felt he had the makings of a solid leadership group.
"I've been very impressed with a number of our seniors, even some of our juniors, in the way they've gone about their business," he said.
"Their excitement has been building, and they've been getting a lot of our freshmen and sophomore players up here to the weight room to work with them. I definitely feel like there's a group where if there's anything I need from them, I can lean on them. They know what needs to be done.
"One of the things we plan on instituting is a leadership council. That's something where I can go to those guys any time we have an issue or situation, talk to them about what needs to be done and give them some ownership," he added.
With that, Rutt turned his attention to the upcoming 2014 campaign.
"I'm excited for our season," Rutt said. "Tim Jansen is running our defense and Kylel Barberic our offense. I really think it's important for me to have those two guys as my coordinators. It allows me to focus on our overall program.
"Im excited about what they have planned. I've been in on some of their meetings, and I've been able to contribute to some of their schemes. But really, the offense is Coach Barberic's and the defense is Coach Jansen's. It's exciting to see what they've put together.
"I'm really looking forward to watching them implement their systems and really get our kids very comfortable with what their assignments are on every play," he said.
The rest of Rutt's staff includes Brent Niebecker (special teams coordinator), Sean Dusek (defensive line), Brandon Jackson (offensive line), John Girgash (offensive line), Ryan Haley (cornerbacks), Brian Murphy (ruining backs) and Harry Manos (wide receivers).
But in the end, it all comes down to the players' performance on the field, according to Rutt.
"I'm really big on players needing to do their job on the field," he said. "They need to know what their job is, and be able to execute.
"They need to get reps with those in practice, and I think the teachers we have at those positions, as well as our other position coaches, will put our kids in a good spot," he added.
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